By Susan Turner, MN, PhD, RN
Nursing has been more exciting than I expected. I have learned amazing things in every role I’ve had in 40 years as an RN — some lessons date back to when I was 16 years old and was working as a clinical nurse aide. Here, I share the most important lessons that have stayed with me and have become part of my everyday practice. I hope the next generation of nurses will find them useful.
…For all nurses
- Keep your word. The fastest way to destroy a trusting relationship is to make a promise and then break it.
- Don’t blow hot and cold. Consistency is essential. If you are positive one day and negative the next, the staff will not know how to react. Respect for you will dissipate.
- Follow facility policies and procedures. As an expert witness since 1983, I can tell you that most cases of unprofessional conduct, malpractice or gross negligence involving RNs originate from failure to follow facility policies.
- Don’t lose your cool in front of other staff or patients. Keep your emotions under control. Blowing up can destroy relationships.
…For future leaders
- Never forget what it’s like to work in the trenches. Manage others the way you would like to be managed.
- Be gracious and courteous. “Please,” “thank you” and “I appreciate your hard work,” are not said enough. It takes little time to be courteous, but the payback is endless.
- Make building trust a priority. It is something that is earned. When employees trust their managers, they will do anything to help accomplish goals and objectives.
- Relationship management matters. Management is all about managing relationships.
- Accept that making the right decisions for your unit might make you unpopular with some of your staff.
- If you ask staff members for their opinions, be prepared to listen to their suggestions. Then follow up with staff to discuss their feedback and how it was used.
- Be visible on the unit and in patients’ rooms. You can learn more about what is happening on your unit in 10 minutes than you can in a month of meetings.
- Delegate, then get out of the way. Some managers aren’t always willing to let someone else take the reins. Give clear goals and deadlines. Be available for guidance.
- Empower others. Take on the role of facilitator and coach. Anyone can give advice, but it takes a good manager to empower employees to problem-solve on their own.
- Communicate honestly and often. You may not always be able to share good news, but ongoing honest and effective communication is critical to your success.
- Follow the 24-hour rule. Never make a difficult decision right away if you can avoid doing so. Considering your decision overnight may save you lots of trouble (or embarrassment) later.
- Take on issue that will make the most difference to patient care, or that compromise your ethics or integrity. Ask yourself if this issue will make a difference in a year. If the answer is no, move on.
- Remember that caring for patients is what matters most. It is easy to get lost in personnel, project and budget productivity issues. Always keep patients’ needs as your central priority; you will rarely be faulted for doing so.
Susan Turner, MN, PhD, RN, is president/CEO, Turner Healthcare Associates, Inc.
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